Intensive vs. Extensive Property: An Exploratory Analysis

In discussing the physical characteristics of matter, scientists often distinguish between intensive and extensive properties. Understanding the differences between intensive and extensive properties is fundamental in fields such as chemistry, physics, and engineering because it affects how properties are measured and interpreted.

The Main Difference between Intensive and Extensive

Intensive vs. Extensive Property: An Exploratory Analysis Pin


Intensive vs. Extensive: Key Takeaways

  • Intensive properties do not depend on the amount of matter and include characteristics like density and color.
  • Extensive properties are dependent on the sample size and include mass, volume, and length.
  • Recognizing the difference is critical for scientific measurement and interpretation of matter

Intensive vs. Extensive: the Definition

What Does Intensive Mean?

Intensive properties are those characteristics of matter that do not change with the amount of substance. These properties are inherent to the substance and can be used to identify it, regardless of the sample size. For example:

  • Temperature (T): The measure of thermal energy within a substance.
  • Density (ρ): The mass per unit volume of a substance.
  • Hardness (η): The resistance of a material to deformation or penetration.

What Does Extensive Mean?

Extensive properties differ as they depend on the system size or the amount of matter present. These properties are additive for independent, non-interacting subsystems. Here are a few examples:

  • Mass: The total amount of matter in an object.
  • Volume: The amount of space a substance occupies.
  • Size and length are also extensive properties; they vary directly with the amount of material.

Intensive vs. Extensive Usage and Examples

Intensive refers to something that is concentrated or characterized by a high degree of effort, depth, or focus. When we use this term, we’re emphasizing the thoroughness or vigorous nature of an action or characteristic.

  • Our intensive research ensured comprehensive coverage of the topic.
  • The students underwent an intensive training program.

Extensive, on the other hand, denotes something that is widespread, far-reaching, or covers a large area. It conveys the breadth rather than the depth of an activity or characteristic.

  • The scientist has extensive knowledge in multiple fields.
  • Their project requires extensive resources.

Here’s a table to summarize:

Word Context Example Sentence
Intensive High degree of effort or focus The course demanded intensive study from us.
Extensive Broad in scope or scale We conducted extensive surveys to gather data.

Tips to Remember the Difference

Mnemonic Device: We can remember “DIME”

  • D for Density (Intensive)
  • I for Intensive
  • M for Mass (Extensive)
  • E for Extensive

Intensive vs. Extensive: Examples

Example Sentences Using Intensive 

  • Temperature: No matter how much water we have in a kettle, its boiling point is an intensive property because it remains at 100°C.
  • Color: The vibrant blue of the sky we observe is characteristic of its intensive property since it doesn’t change regardless of the amount we see.
  • Density: Whether we have a kilogram or a gram of gold, its density, an intensive property, is constant at approximately 19.3 g/cm³.
  • Hardness: The hardness of a diamond is an intensive property we note; it’s the same even if we compare a large gemstone to a small one.
  • Melting Point: The melting point of ice is a clear example of an intensive property, remaining steadfast at 0°C, no matter the size of the ice cube.

Example Sentences Using Extensive 

  • Mass: The more apples we gather, the greater our total mass, showcasing mass as an extensive property.
  • Volume: When we fill up a balloon with air, its volume increases, which is an attribute of it being an extensive property.
  • Energy: The total amount of energy we have stored in a battery is extensive since it varies with the size and number of batteries.
  • Weight: If we stack two identical chairs, one on top of the other, the weight doubles, demonstrating an extensive property.
  • Length: The length of a piece of string becomes an extensive property because it changes when we cut it or tie more to it.

Related Confused Words with Intensive vs. Extensive

Intensive vs. Intentive

  • Intensive: This adjective describes something that is concentrated or carried out with a lot of effort and attention to detail. For example, “intensive care” is thorough and dedicated care usually provided in hospitals.
  • Intentive: Although not commonly used, “intentive” can be related to or show intent. It is less about the effort or concentration and more about the aim or purpose behind an action.

Extensive vs. Expansive

  • Extensive: When something is widespread or covers a large area, it is said to be extensive. For example, extensive reading involves reading a wide range of materials to develop general skills.
  • Expansive: This word describes something that has the capacity or tendency to expand. “Expansive” can also refer to being communicative or open, such as having an expansive way of speaking.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you explain the difference between intensive and extensive properties?

Intensive properties do not depend on the amount of substance present and remain constant regardless of size or quantity. Extensive properties, on the other hand, scale with the quantity of the material, changing when the amount of substance is varied.

Are there any easy examples to illustrate intensive properties in thermodynamics?

Yes, temperature is a classic example of an intensive property in thermodynamics. No matter how much water you have, its temperature will be the same throughout, illustrating that temperature does not change with quantity.

How can you tell if a physical property such as hardness is considered intensive or extensive?

Hardness is an intensive property because it does not change with the size or amount of the material. A diamond, regardless of its size, will have the same hardness.

In the context of physical properties, why is mass categorized the way it is?

Mass is categorized as an extensive property because it directly depends on the amount of matter. If we have two identical steel bars, their combined mass will be double that of one, perfectly illustrating the extensive nature of mass.

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Last Updated on January 5, 2024

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